Update: Days after the premiere of "Love Is Blind: After the Altar," Deepti Vempati and Kyle Abrams announced they had broken up.
"Love Is Blind?" More like, "Love Is Fast." The Netflix reality show speeds up the dating process to an extreme: Couples get engaged after days of knowing each other — without ever having seen each other.
But for cast members Deepti Vempati and Kyle Abrams of Season Two, romance was a slow burn, unfolding after the show stopped filming and their other engagements fizzled.
Now, with the "Love Is Blind: After the Altar" premiering on Netflix on Sept. 16, Abrams is filling TODAY in on where his relationship with Vempati stands today.
In the special, which tracks the cast members' post-show lives, Abrams and Vempati acknowledge what social media sleuths long suspected: They are a "thing." A real thing. Not a hoax, as other social media users wondered.
“People don’t understand that we’ve been talking nonstop for two years,” Abrams said. Abrams explained they started hanging out nearly every day after filming and became "really good friends." They even spent Christmas together while quarantined with COVID-19.
After the show finished, Abrams and Vempati were often seen together on social media, not-so-subtly teasing a relationship. But what were they?
On "After the Altar," they try to answer that question for themselves, tip-toeing up to the cliff that separates friendship and romance.
"The problem with dating your best friend is that when you break up, you lose your best friend. It was tough to take that leap," he said.
Ultimately, in the third episode, Abrams and Vempati decide to give in to the connection (and "sexual tension," which they both acknowledged), and kiss.
According to Abrams, they might have taken even longer to "define the relationship," as the kids say, if it hadn't been for the three-episode reunion special, which followed up the dramatic reunion episode.
"It would've taken a lot longer. I’m not one to rush into a relationship. This was the right opportunity," he said.
Clearly, he's right: Abrams explained that their relationship goes all the way back to the pods. Though they both ended up engaged to other people – he to Shaina Hurley, who recently married Christos Lardakis, and she to Shake Chatterjee, to disastrous effects — they almost chose each other.
"We got really near the end of it was kind of between me and Shake for her," he said, then remembered an exchange they had in the pods not shown on the show.
"I was like, 'You're gonna choose somebody with the safe, professional life.' She said, 'I know what my life will be like 10 years.' I said, 'You're gonna choose me and I'm like a wild card, because you're not sure what I'll do or say.'" But honestly, at the en do fit, it was the opposite. I was the safer choice. His true colors came out," Abrams said.
Chatterjee was criticized for his comments about Vempati's body and for his post-show behavior, including aggression at the reunion. He did not appear in the "After the Altar" special. Abrams said many cast members declined to film with him. And when asked by producers whether he would get dinner with Chatterjee, he refused.
After getting to know Chatterjee in the men's living quarters for "Love Is Blind," Abrams wanted to tell Vempati she was "making a bad decision."
"I couldn't be that person. I couldn't do that through the wall. You were trapped. And plus, I had other interests," he said.
Abrams and his "other interest," Hurley, broke up soon after getting engaged, as they were unable to reconcile their religious differences.
He said he and Vempati are more compatible. "She is one of the funniest people I know. Just talking to her is so much fun. She has so much insight. That's ultimately what I think dating and life is about: How you get along. And I get along with her so well," he said. "She's somebody I want to be with all the time."
Hurley, speaking to TODAY, wishes her ex all the best. "I want nothing but the best for Kyle and Deepti is such an amazing soul. I want everyone to be happy. And so if that was what makes them happy, I'm happy," she said.
Abrams is fond of Vempati, and so are the record-breaking show's legion of fans. Fans rallied around her in the wake of Chatterjee's controversy, and her decision to "choose herself" at the altar during their wedding. Vempati now has 1 million Instagram followers.
While pursuing a relationship, Abrams said he felt the pressure of fandom.
"I felt so much pressure. That's another hesitation. When someone wants this for you, you start to question if you want it. Are we going to piss people off if we don't do what they want?" he said. Even their families, he said, were questioning. "They were like, 'You guys spend a lot of time together. What's going on with you guys?'"
"This is a unique scenario that makes every decision tricky," he said.
As for whether they're still together? Abrams said they’re waiting until Sept. 19 to tell the world what’s happened since the show came out, in an attempt to control the narrative. “As soon as the show airs, we’re going to say announced everything that happened from there,” he said. “We didn’t have control last time and now do have control.”
He will say this: Walking around Chicago with Vempati, the "Love Is Bind" fans they encounter will sometimes cry while seeing them together.
"They just lose it. I'm like, 'Why do you cry?' And they say, 'I'm just so happy.'"